Potentilla paradoxa (Bushy Cinquefoil)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sand Cinquefoil
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
Habitat:sun; moist or wet sandy soil; lakeshores, river banks, sand bars, low fields
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:8 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] Flowers on short stalks in branching, leafy clusters at the branch tips, bright yellow, around ¼ inch across with 5 nearly round petals with a slight depression at the tip giving them a rounded heart shape. Directly behind them are 5 broad lance-like sepals, sharply pointed, about as long as the petals and alternating between them with another set of lance shaped bractlets behind them. The outer surface of bractlets and sepals are hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of lower leaves] Leaves are alternate along the branches, the lower stem leaves are pinnately compound, 2 to 3 inches long. The 7 to 11 oblong to oval leaflets have coarsely toothed edges, the tips blunt or rounded, the surfaces soft from short, fine hairs (pubescent). Leaves are smaller as they ascend the stem, becoming 3-parted and short stalked in the flower clusters.

[photo of leaf, stipules and stem] At the base of the leaf stalk is a pair of leafy appendages (stipules) that are lance shaped with a sharply pointed tip and smooth edges. Stems are smooth to hairy with diffuse branching that is spreading to ascending.


Potentilla paradoxa sometimes goes by Potentilla supina var. paradoxa. While its preferred habitat is lake shore, it is not widely common in the land of 10,000 lakes. It is likely dependent on broad, shallow beach lines subject to seasonal water fluctuations. It is very prolific around reservoirs and along sandy shoals of the Missouri River in the Dakotas. It could be confused with Rough Cinquefoil (Potentilla norvegica), a weedy species sometimes present in similar habitats, but the flower sepals and bracts of that species are longer than the petals and its leaves are compound with only 3 leaflets that are much larger and broader.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Lake Sakakawea near Garrison, North Dakota.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Tammy - St. Louis County
on: 2015-06-25 22:05:26

This is a common wild flower for Northern St. Louis County. I see it all the time in the country. It grows on the side of most roads. It grows in my parent's yard.

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